TUSTIN — Returning to the field where her last high school season ended, Corona del Mar High senior Kendall Mulvaney almost saw it happen again Thursday evening.
Mulvaney was the goalie for the CdM girls' soccer team, which made a memorable run to the CIF Southern Section Division 1 quarterfinals before losing to Foothill in heartbreaking fashion, 1-0, in the pouring rain at Tustin High.
The weather was better on Thursday, but it was the same opponent and the same field. This time Mulvaney couldn't use her hands, but her stick as a senior co-captain on the CdM girls' lacrosse team.
She almost saw the season slip away again after she turned the ball over in the closing minutes while trying to stall. Foothill's Carly Naud tied the score up on the other end with 35 seconds left.
Mulvaney did not pout. She changed the end result this time.
Mulvaney scored with seven seconds left as the No. 6-seeded Sea Kings rallied to stun the No. 3 Knights, 12-11, in a U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section South Division quarterfinal playoff match.
CdM (16-4) is in the semifinals for just the second time in program history. The Sea Kings move on to play No. 2 Los Alamitos for the first time this season, on Saturday at Laguna Hills High. Los Al beat Aliso Niguel, 15-3, in another quarterfinal match.
Corona del Mar will again be underdogs in that semifinal match. But guess what? The Sea Kings don't mind.
"I guess we're good at being underdogs," Mulvaney said. "That's the place to be. If you're on top, everyone's gunning for you.
"Statistically, yes [beating Foothill] is an upset, because they're ranked higher than us and they've beat more teams than we have. But we've really proven that we're the better team. The last three years, they've yet to beat us. They make excuses, but at the end of the day it's what happens on the field. Who's there matters, but at the end of the day it's what happens that game, that moment. You can't blame it on one person not being there."
The Sea Kings upset the Knights, 16-15, in a nonleague game on April 14. However, Foothill played that game without one of its top players, sophomore Meridian Lee, who takes the draws.
Lee scored twice and was solid on Thursday, although CdM senior co-captain Sabrina "Bean" Smith (four goals) more than held her own on the draws. The Sea Kings got a big one after Naud's late goal when another senior co-captain, Jamie Smith, controlled the ensuing draw.
Mulvaney scored the final goal on an isolation play, running in front of the goal from left to right before scoring back across her body. Foothill (15-3) eventually got the ball back with 1.5 seconds left, but was unable to get a shot off.
CdM led for much of the physical contest, which featured six total yellow cards. Foothill did not take its first lead until 16:42 remaining in the game, when Lee scored on a free position shot to give the hosts a 7-6 lead.
From there, it was back and forth, though two Foothill players were issued yellow cards just 39 seconds apart with less than six minutes to go. CdM, up two players, took advantage. The final senior co-captain, Kacie Kline, scored on a free position shot with 4:50 left to tie the score at 10-10. And CdM sophomore Payton Carter added a goal less than two minutes later to give the Sea Kings the lead back.
After Carter controlled the draw and Foothill was issued yet another yellow card, CdM tried to play keep away. But Mulvaney's pass was deflected, and Foothill's Claire Healy picked it up with 51 seconds left. Healy earned a free position shot, while simultaneously a CdM defender was issued a yellow card of her own.
The sequence led to Naud's goal, but it also set up Mulvaney's late heroics.
"I threw it away, and I thought I had to make that up," she said. "I had this gut feeling they'd score ... I saw the opportunity, and I thought, 'We're going to tie if I don't do this.' I just went for it. I didn't think it was going to go in."
Mulvaney finished with three goals and two assists, and Carter had two goals and two assists. Jamie Smith led everyone with five draw controls, while CdM freshman Kennedy Mulvaney made a difference with three caused turnovers, also taking a charge.
It was the defense that CdM Coach Aly Simons praised after the game. Megan Rieden, Katie Scott, Emily Schwartz, Taryn Beaufort, Jensen Coop and Katherine Mulvaney are the other primary defenders for CdM in front of senior goalkeeper Kate Allen, who had a standout game with 12 saves.
"We just practiced a lot of the things that we felt like were going to help us beat Foothill," Simons said. "No. 1 was defense, defense, defense, and I feel like our defense did so well today. Kate played a great game, along with our defense as a whole. We have six girls who we feel confident to rotate in those four positions. There's no weak links. Our defense at points, man down, held them for like 30-something seconds. That's really hard to do."
Allen, who said she has been battling sickness on and off for the past couple of weeks, said she knew she had to step up.
"I think I was mentally prepared," she said. "We had been preparing the whole week for this game. Our defense had a big role in it. They would shoot it, and it would hit their stick, so I would just go and get it. I just have to stay big and strong, and intimidate them to not make that shot."
Foothill junior Julia Taylor led everyone with six goals, four of those coming in the second half. But the Sea Kings had the answers.
"They're a tall, fast team and they play aggressively," Foothill Coach Kaylee Navarette said. "That's what we like. We'll come back next year ... It was a great game to be in, right to the very end. I'm proud of [my players]."